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Tag Archives: Nocturnes and Variations

Andrew Schultz Piano Music – CD Release

Piano Music AS web

Antony Gray is the pianist on a new compact disc of Andrew Schultz’s music for piano. The music was written in the period from 1987 to 2015 and includes most of his output written for solo piano during that time. With his amazing virtuosity, the well known Australian born and  international pianist, Antony Gray, demonstrates his expressive control of phrasing and colour throughout the recordings. The recordings were made in Melbourne and London; works on the disc include Barcarole, Prelude and Postscript, and Four Inventions from The Children’s Bach. In a recent review of another work on the disc, Nocturnes and Variations, one critic wrote,  “this captivating piece added to the growing sense that a distinct musical language is coming out of Australia which is as unique and starkly beautiful as the land itself.” [Marc Rochester, “A rare chamber treat,” The Straits Times, 20/2/16.]

The CD is released by the Australian label Wirripang and carries the catalogue number, Wirr 078.  The disc has also been released on digital platforms and via the Naxos Music Library.

Click here for more information, to hear samples of the music, and to purchase the disc.

Some recent reviews of the new disc:

“Andrew Schultz’s impressive piano music collection is deeply rooted in the unique resonant qualities of the instrument. His long-time collaborator, Antony Gray, interprets the works with both sensitivity and panache.”  [Read Michael Hannan’s review of the disc in full in the Music Trust E-zine.]

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“Schultz’s piano works range as widely as the great outdoors.

Antony Gray is a London-based pianist who has gained praise for his recordings of Poulenc, Bach, Brahms and Goossens and one can see his skill with these composers fertilising this new disc devoted to Schultz’s pianistic output. In the Adelaide-born composer’s music there is a sense of space, which is entirely appropriate to the vast Australian landscape; and unlike many earlier composers, Schultz is content to write in a more neo-tonal manner without resorting to dissonance or mimicry of bird-cry.

Even in his recent Interludes (2015), there is a sense of late-Romantic intensity. And though Schultz does not regard himself as much of a pianist, there is much here – a sparseness of creative landscape, which defines modern notions of Australia. His music is more melodic than atonal, and yet almost naively deductive in its sense of logic, place and space. Here is music that is haunting and inward, searching for a sense of landscape if not comprehension.

Schultz’s literary influences are disparate – from the 10th-century Japanese Pillow Book to Inventions from his own opera The Children’s Bach after Helen Garner’s touching novella. His counterpoint is all so appropriate, making even more sense of the Bach adopted by the primer of Garner’s title, with a feeling of improvisation and expanding beauty in the right hand, set against gently resolving chords in the left. For those who wish to disappear into the seemingly understated, there is little need to look further.”

Brett Allen-Bayes, Limelight Magazine, October 2016, p. 79

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A review of the disc by Vincent Plush as published in The Weekend Australian on 10 September 2016.

Weekend Australian, 10 Sept 2016

 

 

 

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He said, she said: 2015 reviews

Here are selections from some of the reviews of music (live or recorded) by Andrew Schultz that have been published in the past twelve months. The reviews are arranged by the date order of the composition – with reviews of the newest pieces first. There are many more reviews and similar information at the main website (www.andrewschultz.net) which has just been updated for 2016.

 

Le Moliére Imaginaire (2015)

“Andrew Schultz’s new commissioned work, Le Moliére imaginaire captured the internal nature of the ensemble [I Fagiolini]: urbane, virtuosic, cultured, witty and naughty in equal measure, offering the only time in Musica Viva’s 70-year history that a performance has concluded with the words: ‘burning piss.’” [Carl Vine, “I Fagiolini’s Newcastle Concert,” Musica Viva Australia Blog, 28 July 2015.]

“Australian composer Andrew Schultz spread his wings even more widely with a wicked stagey swipe at all medicos in Le Moliére Imaginaire, with text by Timothy Knapman. A candidate for entry to the profession is quizzed by fuddy-duddies who approve the use of enemas for any ailment and applaud his aim to become rich. Pretentious pig Latin. Music to match chatty exchanges, pompous fuguey patch and hypocritical chorale.” [Elizabeth Silsbury, “I Fagiolini,” The Adelaide Advertiser, 2 August 2015.]

“…alluring harmonies alluding to jazz as well as harmonic dissonance. Staying true to the comedic aspect of a capella performance, there were even references to contemporary popular culture, such as Doctor Who or Renée Zellweger’s cosmetic surgery.” [Joseph Asquith, Musetiquette, 26 July 2015.]

“Andrew Schultz’s quizzically witty Le Moliére imaginaire, meanwhile called for less reverence. It takes the last scene of Moliére’s The Imaginary Invalid, a mock initiation ceremony for a quack doctor, and sets pious pig-Latin words by the ‘learned’ medicos against spoken English equivalents (devised by British writer Tim Knapman).” [Peter McCallum, “I Fagiolini,” Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 2015.]

“Andrew Schultz’s setting of the last scene from Moliére’s Le Malade imaginaire, was specially commissioned by Musica Viva for I Fagiolini’s tour. Entitled Le Moliére imaginaire (Or: Keep Your Enemas Closer), this work should perhaps have come with a parental advisory, or maybe an advisory for more conservative members of the audience. The newly translated text is certainly in keeping with Moliére’s original idea of delivering a coruscating attack on the quackery of the medical profession, and relies heavily on scatological references, with some passing jibes at celebrities: ‘Rupertus Murdochio in magnum merdam cascado.’ If there was a mild possibility of offence at the lyrics, certainly none could be taken at the music, which leaned heavily towards the humorous rather than the ironic. Needless to say the singers delivered the work with great gusto, not least the final lines, ‘Infirmity’s eternal fountain long hard bouts of ‘burning piss.’” [Tony Way, “Review: I Fagiolini (Musica Viva) at Melbourne Recital Centre,” Limelight, 29 July 2015.]

 

Sound lur and serpent (2014)

“Eighteen brass players and another four or five percussionists arrayed along the back of the concert platform created a blazing raucous block of sound for Andrew Schultz’s fanfare, Sound Lur and Serpent, that was thrilling, attention grabbing and alarming.  As Schultz noted in the program, fanfares are used in mythology to signal and celebrate, but also to warn. Taking its inspiration from the Bronze Age brass instrument, the lur, and the tuba’s medieval ancestor the serpent, Schultz’s fanfare did all three. The sense of warning in this case was prompted by the Australian weather bureau’s decision in 2010 to issue a “catastrophic” fire warning, “extreme” no longer sufficing to account for the growing risk. It is an arresting piece drawing on elemental sonorities to potent affect.” [Peter McCallum, “Russian Romantics: thrilling, intense and fiery with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra,” Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2015.]

“This concert also marked the local premiere of Australian composer Andrew Schultz’s Sound Lur and Serpent, a short fanfare for brass and percussion first performed on the orchestra’s Chinese tour last year. Maintaining a well-blended sound, the orchestra’s brass and percussion ensemble realized Schultz’s evocative, imposing miniature with resounding power and penetrating clarity.” [Murray Black, “Vasily Petrenko reveals Rachmaninov,” The Australian, 24 July 2015.]

“If Sydney Symphony Orchestra is Australia’s flagship orchestra, then composer Andrew Schultz can be seen as th0e spokesman for the country’s contemporary classical music. His music has been performed and recorded by leading musicians around the world. Beijing audiences are in for a treat to see the world premiere of his new work. Foreboding and enchanting, Andrew Schultz’s “Sound Lur and Serpent, Fanfare for Brass and Percussion, Opus 98″ sets the tone for the evening’s performance. Inspired by old brass instruments that resemble the horns of beasts and the shapes of serpents, the piece was commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for their 2014 China tour, and its gives the Chinese audience a taste of New Australian Music.” [“Sydney Symphony sets sail for China,” China Central Television, 30 June 2014]

“This piece really blows the roof off of anything and will start the concert series with the real sense of the incredible dynamism and energy that is Australia.” [David Robertson, “2014 China tour program”, Sydney Symphony Orchestra YouTube Video.]

 

Nocturnes and Variations for piano (2014)

“…this was a performance [by Stephen Emmerson in Singapore] which did not so much shed light on the music as illuminate it warmly from within….That is certainly what Emmerson did with the haunting set of variations written for him by Andrew Schultz. With its echoes of Peter Sculthorpe, this captivating piece added to the growing sense that a distinct musical language is coming out of Australia which is as unique and starkly beautiful as the land itself.” [Marc Rochester, “A rare chamber treat,” The Straits Times, 20/2/16.]

 

August Offensive (2013)

“Wedged between these pieces was Andrew Schultz’s August Offensive. The work opened with a truly cataclysmic moment, then dropped back. Flashes of power were shot through with some lovely rich harmonies from the strings, as the piece slowly rebuilt to the devastating cacophony of its opening bar.” [Madeleine Dale, “Review: The Gallipoli Symphony,” Limelight, 28 November 2015.]

“Conductor Jessica Cottis, masterly yet sensitive, brought the Symphony to a shattering crescendo with Andrew Schultz’s dramatic movement “The August Offensive” conjuring up the most violent part of the fighting.” [Helen Musa, “Gallipoli Symphony premieres to standing ovation,” City News, 25 November 2015.]

 

I am writing in this book (2011)

“The concluding composition, Andrew Schultz’s I am writing in this book, composed specially for Halcyon in 2011, set five songs in English from the tenth-century text the Pillow Book…The selections chart Shonagon’s growth as a woman from the singular vision of ‘A gift of paper’ to the funereal ‘It is getting dark’, set as a ghostly duet between the voices and cello. Overlapping sibilances and intense vocal patter added character to the work’s central three movements, in which powerlessness, revulsion and wonder all played compelling parts.” [Luke Iredale, “Winter Moon Secrets,” ClassikOn, 4 September 2015.]

 

Deep blue and dirty (2011)

“The evocative title… Deep blue and dirty was commissioned by bassoonist Mark Gaydon, who was rewarded with an excellent vehicle for his virtuosic skills. He and pianist Lucinda Collins give a lively performance of a striking work. Two themes open the work, one might be ‘deep blue’ and the other ‘dirty’, the composer tells us. A set of nine variations follow without a break – four on the first theme, four on the second and the ninth combines the two. Open chords on piano and trills on the bassoon introduce long, lyrical melodic lines, then a jazzy central section which fades down to a soft ending. This is a major addition to solo bassoon repertoire… In summary, this is memorable music performed by expert musicians, well recorded and presented. [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“The composer gives few clues about this piece. Feel free to muse…Mark Gaydon’s bassoon is indeed very deep, but also very high; blue and bluesy or purple or many shades of grey, occasionally grandpa grubby, rather than dirty. Pianist Lucinda Collins keeps pace with him in his own commission, crafted by Schultz to reveal the technical and expressive facets of the wind family’s elder brother. This is material to ponder on. Let your imagination plunge deep, scan the sky.” [Elizabeth Silsbury, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

Deep Blue and Dirty showcases Mark Gaydon’s lyrical and full-bodied bassoon playing. The attractive timbral contrast in the bassoon is matched by an evocative piano accompaniment provided by Lucinda Collins. The rapport between the two musicians is highly effective, and probably the standout of the disc.” [Andrew Aronowicz, “Andrew Schultz, Deep blue and dirty,” Limelight, 2 October 2015.]

 

Indigo Invention (2010)

Indigo Invention is a duet, about six minutes long… progressing from gentle to lyrical with a more energetic section in the middle. It is the sort of delectable music that leaves a smile on one’s face.” [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“… the duet for violin and cello, Indigo Invention, has sweet melodies and an almost romantic lyricism at times.” [Andrew Aronowicz, “Andrew Schultz, Deep blue and dirty,” Limelight, 2 October 2015.]

 

To the evening star (2009):

“The longest piece on the CD is a song-cycle To the evening star, winner in 2009 of the prestigious Paul Lowin Award. It is performed expertly by Margaret Schindler and Stephen Emmerson for whom it was composed. Schultz has chosen poetry as a stimulus for five songs which ‘reflect on the creative inner life’. Providing contrast in musical expression for both singer and pianist, each one is a gem. The first song, “Lake Isle of Innisfree”, is a setting of words by Yeats which describe the psychological experience of seeking solitude and peace. It is beautiful and introspective, with some luminous writing for the voice. In contrasting mood, the next song “Pied beauty” is a joyful setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ delightful poem that begins: “Glory be to God for dappled things – For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow”. “Mezzo Cammin” is dark and rather bleak in comparison, with spacious and sometimes thunderous writing for piano in Schultz’s interpretation of words by Longfellow: ‘The Cataract of death far thundering from the heights” – impressive. We breathe again in “Money, O!” where the poet W H Davies philosophises somewhat on the value of money…The piano accompaniments to the five verses are endlessly interesting and varied in this spirited piece. The final song in the cycle gives its name to the whole: “To the evening star”, words by William Blake. It is a deep, peaceful reflection on life, with some glorious curving melodies and great swoops of sound. In the whole cycle, including the choice of texts, Schultz successfully blends creativity and skill to produce a work of depth, sincerity and musicality.”  [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“Schultz has an eye and an ear for settable words. Schindler’s voice is light and flexible, her vibrato even throughout an impressive range. Singer and pianist deliver a variety of moody and scenic texts – Yeats yearning for “Lake Isle of Innisfree”, homespun philosophy in “Money, O!” by W.H.Davies, with the piano running rings around the voice. The title song, Blake’s image-packed “To the Evening Star”, invites repeated hearings, as much for the carefully crafted and performed piano part as for the voice.” [Elizabeth Silsbury, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015]

 

Magnificat (2009):

“The Kühn Mixed Choir of Prague, conducted by Marek Vorlicek has done Schultz proud. His Magnificat begins with Mary musing in wonderment at this miracle that has befallen upon her. (No, I don’t believe it either. But let’s go along with it for the sake of the story.)

Schultz has entered the mind of the virgin, imagining her changing emotions, even a touch of trepidation, ending in a restrained shout of triumph that she of all women has been chosen for this mystical honour. His Magnificat is a beautiful piece, beautifully sung. It would sit well beside the Bach setting in live performance.” [ Elizabeth Silsbury “Foundations. Modern works in the classical tradition,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 February 2016.]

 

The Children’s Bach (2008)

Garner’s poetic and elusive book “translated very effectively into a lightly –scored and evocative chamber opera which took the central metaphor of the fugue from the novel. This became a meditation on the messiness and complexity of human relationships, one given a sense of structure by music.” [Michael Halliwell, “Fly Away Peter: when Australian literature goes to the opera,” The Conversation, 1 May 2015.]

 

After Nina (2007)

“After Nina, a trio for clarinet, cello and piano, was inspired by a Nina Simone version of a civil rights song of the 1930s called Strange Fruit…The sparse, soft opening chords of the piano are joined by a passionate cello melody, then clarinet. The emotional content is not angry, as one might expect from the scenario described in the devastating imagery of the text, but despair and sadness. Paul Dean (clarinet), Patrick Murphy (cello) and Stephen Emmerson (piano) combine well in an expressive and moving exposition of an intensely felt work.” [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“…After Nina, is a slowly unfolding reflection on a 1930s civil rights song (as performed by popular African-American singer Nina Simone) scored for clarinet, cello and piano. Its sombre chord progression with occasional dissonant harmonies makes for delicately emotional listening.” [Andrew Aronowicz, “Andrew Schultz, Deep blue and dirty,” Limelight, 2 October 2015.]

 

Lines drawn from silence (2007)

“In Lines drawn from silence Schultz sets fragments of writings by Sir Isaac Newton. Margaret Schindler’s radiant soprano is accompanied by Alan Smith (violin), Tania Frazer (oboe), Paul Dean (clarinet), Mark Gaydon (bassoon), Sharn McIver (French horn) and Kevin Power (piano). Inventive, expansive textures demonstrate the abilities of this first class ensemble, the Southern Cross Soloists.” [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“Reflecting on the spark of scientific discovery, Lines Drawn from Silence… features prominent parts for soprano and obbligato violin, set amongst an often-bustling texture of piano and winds.” [Andrew Aronowicz, “Andrew Schultz, Deep blue and dirty,” Limelight, 2 October 2015]

 

Once upon a time (2006)

Once upon a time has many interesting textures and layers to it, again an image laden piece…I quite like the way in which Schultz goes down to basics and proceeds from simple ideas, yet at the same time his music isn’t exactly lacking in richness, fine detail or complexity either. One thing I notice is his ability to pare things down so that you get a sense of the intimacy of chamber music, although these are works for large orchestra.” [Sid James, “Andrew Schultz,” Talk Classical, 27 September 2014.]

 

Master Mariner – Dead at Sea (2005) (viola and piano) and Master Mariner – Lost at Sea (2006) (oboe and piano)

Master Mariner – Lost at Sea is a short, atmospheric work for oboe and piano. Sombre, subdued chords from the piano of Kevin Power toll slowly at the start, joined by the oboe of Tania Frazer in a mournful lullaby. Schultz’s notes advise that this is a re-working of a song in his Dead Songs cycle where he took epitaphs from seaside cemeteries in New South Wales. A feeling of doom is accentuated by deep, rumbling sounds from low, muffled notes of the prepared piano. Despite its melancholy ambience, this piece is most enjoyable, possibly because we can listen from the safety of dry land whilst imagining an unfortunate mariner lost at sea. It is a fitting end to the CD program.” [Gwen Bennett, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“Frazer and Power round off Schultz’s thoughtful and thought-provoking chamber gems with the short, pungent Lost at Sea. The bell tolls for us all. Schultz is a master of the High Intensity Short Time genre.” [Elizabeth Silsbury, “Deep blue and dirty,” Music Trust of Australia, 1 August 2015.]

“…an atmospheric piece suiting an imaginative performer.” [Robyn Brookfield, “Two New AMEB Viola Repertoire Books,” AUSTA, 11 May 2015.]

 

Sleepers wake (2003)

“it is good to see a piano version of the ‘Sleepers’ Wake’ as Andrew Schultz so powerfully imagined it in the cantata Journey to Horseshoe Bend.” [Gordon Kerry, “Bach piano transcriptions,” The Music Trust of Australia, 1 September 2015.]

 

Journey to Horseshoe Bend (2002)

Journey to Horseshoe Bend tells the story of a German missionary in early 20th century Australia, weaving it together with Australian Aboriginal and Christian narratives. The text is in English, German and the language of the Aranda people of central Australia. The story is of Carl Strehlow’s final journey and death in 1922. The landscape and weather patterns of the desert are conveyed in word and music.

Strehlow had made an extensive documentation of the Aranda people’s language, culture and music. The choir he founded (Ntaria Ladies Choir) sings in this performance, culminating in Bach’s chorale Wachet Auf (Sleepers Awake!) being woven in counterpoint with Strehlow’s translation of it into Aranda (Kaarerrai worlamparinyai). This is the emotional high point in the piece, which celebrates the life of Strehlow and the culture which he had embraced (at a time when it this was not the norm for white people, much less for religious ministers).

This was my first listen to this work, and as with orchestral works by Schultz I liked that balance between the epic and intimate. It also has parallels with Tippett’s A Child of our Time, in terms of combining different histories and traditions…

Another listen to Journey to Horseshoe Bend, this time I sensed more subtleties in the plot, in terms of the interweaving of Aboriginal spirituality, Biblical narraitves and stories of the pioneer life in the desert. The setting is the harshness and beauty of the Australian landscape, and there is also a sense of the layers of history, with Strehlow’s son narrating as both a boy and adult (so in present and past tense).

It’s quite interesting, and I can understand how initially this project was envisaged to be an opera and only became a cantata later. The story tells itself, but there are ambiguities here too. Dying in the desert, Strehlow feels that his God has abandoned him, and this could have ended on a dark note with him alone in the wilderness (like Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, maybe). But it ends in a celebratory mood, rejoicing in the beauty of nature, humanity and music.” [Sid James, “Journey to Horseshoe Bend,” Talk Classical, 2 and 12 October 2014]

 

Violin Concerto (1996)

“… I’d call it radiant, it has this sense of nature and warmth. I noticed a couple of links between the two movements in terms of texture and melody. The first is a chorale that ends like a hymn and the second is a very energetic dance, which had shades of folk music (drones), jazz (the brassy bits), the chorale theme and percussive elements returning from the start of the concerto.” [Sid James, “Violin Concerto,” Talk Classical, 20 September 2014.]

Nocturnes and Variations premieres in Brisbane

The first performance of Nocturnes and Variations for piano, opus 96 (2014) will be given by Stephen Emmerson in Brisbane in October. The work is a 15 minute, three movement piece commissioned by Stephen Emmerson and Griffith University. The two outer movements are nocturnes and the middle, larger movement is a set of variations. Stephen plays the work in a concert of piano music at the Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University, Grey Street, South Brisbane on Wednesday, 28 October at 6:00pm.

For more details and to book tickets: http://www.conevents.com.au/doppleganger/

 

 

Composer’s Note: Andrew Schultz – Nocturnes and Variations for piano, Opus 96 (2014)

“In unlit places without streetlamps or yelping neon, night is profound and often comes as ease. Relief from looking out for and away from.” [Toni Morrison, Love]

  1. Nocturne – Lento
  2. Variations – Sostenuto e misterioso
  3. Nocturne – Liquido (quasi senza misura)

This 15 minute work was completed in early 2014 and was commissioned by my friend, the wonderful pianist Stephen Emmerson, to whom the work is also dedicated. The two outer movements are nocturnes and the middle, larger movement is a set of variations. The two nocturnes are muted and atmospheric night pieces that unfold slowly but with more jubilant passages at their centre. The outer movements frame the larger central variations movement. In all there are 31 variations of four bars each, based on the harmonically ambiguous but simple four bar chordal theme that opens the movement. Each variation draws on the opening material of the theme but also takes up the material of the surrounding variations; hopefully, that achieves a kind of organic flow and dramatic shape in the overall set of variations.

 

PS. Read about Stephen Emmerson’s recent performance of the work in February 2016 in Singapore:

“…this was a performance which did not so much shed light on the music as illuminate it warmly from within….That is certainly what Emmerson did with the haunting set of variations written for him by Andrew Schultz. With its echoes of Peter Sculthorpe, this captivating piece added to the growing sense that a distinct musical language is coming out of Australia which is as unique and starkly beautiful as the land itself.” [Marc Rochester, “A rare chamber treat,” The Straits Times, 20/2/16.]